There is a word in Haitian creole to describe some towering figures; the word is: Mapou. Much like the African Baobab, the Mapou is an imposing tree which lives for a long time. It is a central element in Haitian society and has come to typify strength and resilience. This is the description that fits Dr. Marie Marcelle Racine who departed this past July 23, peacefully, surrounded by her family, after a long and fulfilling life.
Maye, as she was affectionately known, was a gentle soul with a steely determination to accomplish a goal: to make sure her students benefitted from the knowledge she acquired herself. She was an exemplary teacher. Her students are unanimous in acknowledging her teaching skills. She had a unique ability to connect with people. Maye never failed to ask me about my daughter’s progress in school and she was so pleased to know that she was doing well. I do not ever remember her getting mad at someone. That was Maye. On the contrary, she was always concerned about others’ wellbeing.
I had the privilege not only of calling Professor Racine my friend, but also of being her colleague at the Haitian Creole Academy which, along with the late linguist Yves Déjean and other Haitian linguists, she helped set up. She passionately believed in promoting Haitian Kreyòl as a tool of Haitian identity and even in retirement, she was active in teaching creole everywhere she could: at the Haitian Embassy in Washington D.C., at the University of the District of Columbia etc. It is that same passion that led her to get involved in all activities having to do with Haiti, civil rights, respect for human rights everywhere. This is the kind of environment in which Maye and her late husband, Etzer, raised their two children, Karl and Mikaele.
Maye is no longer, but only her physical being is gone. Her spirit will be for ever present, her memory very much alive for her daughter Mikaele, her husband and children, her son, the Honorable Karl Racine, the Attorney General for Washington D.C., her sister France Buteau and a myriad of friends all over.
My family and myself address our most sincere condolences to the Racine family. These moments are never easy; but we all get comfort in knowing that she lived a full life, a fulfilling life.
I am grateful to have been able to call her, not Dr Racine, not even Professor Racine, but simply: Maye. May you rest in Peace, Maye! Safe passage…..
Translator for the Organization of American States (Ret.)
Member of the Haitian Creole Academy